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by Courtney Pettersson 11 months ago in science fiction

Death Date

Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash

I opened my eyes.

I’m not sure what I had expected to see once my time came, but it certainly wasn’t the pale blue walls of the crematorium – the same walls I had seen last night. Blinking a few times, my eyes finally focused on the pile of my last belongings on the table to the left of the bed – jeans and my favorite t-shirt, the journal I had taken with me on my final trip, my dad’s old wind-up watch, and the silver, heart-shaped necklace that held my brother’s ashes.

The clock on the wall glowed a dim green in the pale darkness of early morning. 5:47. The disposal crew would be here to take me to the furnaces at six when their shift started. My belongings would be returned to my remaining family, my organs would be harvested and repurposed, and what was left of my body would be reduced to ashes. The only issue was, somehow, I was still using my body.

I lifted my arms, examining my hands, my fingers. Everything was still working just fine. I rolled up the left sleeve of the blue shirt they had provided – the same blue as the walls – and made myself look at the date tattooed on my arm.

The date that had been on my skin since birth.

The date that had made my mother cry almost every day of my life.

The date that had forced me to make amends I wasn’t ready to make, release grudges I wasn’t ready to let go of, say goodbyes I could never be ready for.

The date I was supposed to die.


Panic hit me suddenly enough to knock the wind out of me. What would the crematorium staff think when they saw I was still alive? What would they do? Nothing like this had ever happened before. There would be news crews and government officials and doctors, all wanting answers I didn’t have. I needed time to figure out what had happened, why I was still here.

I needed to get out, and fast.

I jumped up and dressed quickly, leaving my resting clothes in a pile on the floor. I started to look for my phone and keys, then cursed. All items I hadn’t been wearing when I entered the facility would be packaged and ready to send to my next of kin (with the exception of my journal since I had wanted to write a final entry). I wasn’t even sure where they’d be stored or I might try to retrieve them, but I had no time now.

I glanced at the clock again.



I couldn’t go out the way I came in. There would be people in the halls by now – people who assumed I was dead. There was only one way out.

My room was two stories up, but there was a tree outside the window whose branches looked just strong enough to support me. I tucked my journal into the waistband of my jeans and climbed out onto the ledge, fighting the vertigo trying to make my head spin. It was only about a three-foot jump to the nearest branch. I took a deep breath for courage and leapt.

My foot slipped and I hit the branch hard, definitely bruising my inner thigh. Arms flailing frantically, I searched for something to grab hold of, finding another, smaller branch. I made it.

Having never climbed a tree in my life, I found it miraculous I was able to find my way down without further incident. Making sure no one was nearby, maybe taking a smoke break or preparing to say goodbye to a loved one’s remains, I ran to the trimmed hedges that surrounded the facility and hid while I caught my breath.

I checked my watch.


Small, white lights on the side of the building started blinking as a soft tone chimed within the facility.

It was the calmest alarm I had ever witnessed, but I knew it was an alarm, and I knew it was for me.

I pushed my way through a weaker part of the hedge and walked briskly down the street, not sure where I was going. All I knew was I had to get as far away as quickly as possible.

This was not supposed to happen. How was this even possible?

Why wasn't I dead?

science fiction

Courtney Pettersson

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Courtney Pettersson
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